Be Well Rounded or Die: Report from the CrossFit Games

Where the theme at the Northeast Qualifier for the CrossFit Games was virtuosity. The Games themselves were different. They were about all-around fitness, with a stress on both 'all-around' and on 'fitness'.

[caption id="attachment_602" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Sand Bag Sprint -- Annie Thorsdottir -- CrossFit Games 2009"]Sand Bag Sprint -- Annie Thorsdottir -- CrossFit Games 2009[/caption]

One of the CrossFit definitions of fitness is "performing well at any and every task imaginable" and the Games this year emphasized exactly this dimension. From unusual tasks like hammering a 4' metal stake into the ground on the first day to strength and skill challenges like hand stand push ups and muscle ups on the second day, the winners were those able to perform in all these dimensions. Of the sixteen male and sixteen female competitors starting the day on Sunday, only twelve men and ten women were able to complete the assigned tasks.

CrossFit Games 2009 -- Deadlift Ladder from Mark Connell on Vimeo.

The total amount of work was also amazing with five WODs on Saturday and three more on Sunday. Not one of which gave the athletes a chance to rest. The program was:

Event 1 - The Run -- 7.1 k trail run
Event 2 - The Deadlift -- One rep max, working up 10# per lift
Event 3 - The Sandbag Hill Sprint -- Run 170m uphill carrying two/one 35# sandbags
Event 4 - Row / Hammer Stake -- Row 500m, Hammer a stake into the ground, Row 500m
Event 5 - The Couplet -- Three rounds of 30 wall ball shots and 30 squat snatches
Event 6 - The Snatch -- One rep max
Event 7 - The Triplet -- AMRAP 4x hand stand pushups, 8x kettle bell swings and 12x glute ham sit ups
Event 8 - The Chipper -- 15 barbells cleans, 30 toes to bar, 30 box jumps, 10 muscle-ups, 30 DB push presses, 30 double-unders, 15 thrusters, 30 pull-ups, 30 burpees and walking lunges holding a bumper plate overhead.

[caption id="attachment_628" align="alignright" width="179" caption="Jason Khalipa--Hand Stand Push Up"]Jason Khalipa--Hand Stand Push Up[/caption]

The starting fields of 74 men and women were reduced by ten competitors after the second event and a further ten after the fourth event, leaving only 54 athletes for the last event on Saturday. It was here that exhaustion really began to bite. Almost a third of both the women's and the men's fields failed to complete the couplet in the 20 minutes allowed.

One interesting vignette during the couplet was Jason Khalipa (last year's winner and coming from behind this year due to a disastrous 72nd place finish in the first event). Rather than doing an explosive squat snatch with the 75# bar, he would muscle snatch the bar overhead with his enormous shoulder strength and then squat to complete the lift. Doing this he saved his explosive power for the wall ball shots and sailed to a first place finish 38 seconds ahead of the second place competitor.

[caption id="attachment_630" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Mikko Salo -- One rep max snatch attempt (Mike Burgener coaching)"]Mikko Salo -- One rep max snatch attempt (Mike Burgener coaching)[/caption]

Sunday dawned with sixteen finalist women and men. The day began with a one rep max snatch followed by two brutal workouts which would go on to eliminate nearly a third of each field with DNFs.

The triplet WOD began with four hand stand pushups, done on parallettes where the athletes had to touch their heads on a stack of bumper plates below hand level. Four of the sixteen female finalists could not complete a single round of hand stand push ups and were eliminated from the competition as DNF. While all the men finished, there was a wide split from first to sixteenth place with the winner getting 172 reps in the WOD and the last man only 27 reps (where each round of the triplet included 24 reps).

[caption id="attachment_633" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Tanya Wagner -- One rep max snatch"]Tanya Wagner -- One rep max snatch[/caption]

The final event of the Games, the appropriately named Chipper WOD, really ate up what was left of the field. Of the remaining twelve female finalists, two more DNF'ed by failing to complete the ten required muscle ups. The carnage was even higher in the men's field with four DNFs due to failure at muscle ups and a fifth DNF due to time.

CrossFit Games 2009 -- Thruster Overload from Mark Connell on Vimeo.

Loud cheers went up during this last workout each time the Icelandic competitors completed a muscle up. Annie Thorsdottir (2nd place woman going into this last event) and Sveinbjorn Sveinbjornsson (in the men's field) had never done a muscle up before Sunday morning. Despite expert last minute coaching by Nicolle, Annie only completed one and Sveinbjorn finished with eight.

[caption id="attachment_638" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Mikko Salo -- Finishing the plate lunge on the chipper workout and winning the overall title"]Mikko Salo -- Finishing the plate lunge on the chipper workout and winning the overall title[/caption]

The day ended with Finnish fireman Mikko Salo taking the men's championship and Tanya Wagner the women's title. Over the sixteen WODs completed by the pair, there was only one first place finish (Mikko in the chipper WOD). This is great proof of the CrossFit training philosophy that fittest athlete is not the one who is outstanding in one or two dimensions, but the one who is pretty good in all dimensions.


[caption id="attachment_635" align="alignright" width="198" caption="Stacey Kroon -- Muscle Up"]Stacey Kroon -- Muscle Up[/caption]

Stacey Kroon of CrossFit Boston (and first place finisher in the Northeast Qualifier for the CrossFit Games) finished in tenth place overall, displaying her usual quiet determination as she worked through these punishing events. James Hobart of CrossFit Boston (and first place finisher in the Northeast Qualifier for the CrossFit Games) got eliminated after the second event due to the enormous strength on display in the men's field---sixteen men worked up to the highest weight on the deadlift (505#) resulting in a sixteen-way tie for first in this event.

[See the nuBound stream of Tweets and Twitpics from the course of the Games: and scroll back to July 12th and 13th]